Since I had been a boarder myself for many years I never dreamed that my barn would not be a good fit for some of the clients that came here. I understood the boarding world from the view of the client but I didn't understand it at all from the view of the barn owner. I was about to learn some great lessons in running a horse business.
It may seem like I am screening clients but the reality is if a person is not a good fit for your barn, it will be stressful on both you and them. They will not be happy or content and that is not good for anyone and it will make your job much more difficult in the long run.
What does a potential new client need in a barn?
I believe the best way to really find out what a person is looking for in a boarding barn is to ask them what they need in a facility. Are they looking to show horses or trail ride? Do they want or like their horses outside a lot or prefer them in a stall most of the time? Do they like a busy barn or quiet barn? Do they expect private turnout or are they content with their horse in a herd setting? The list could go on and on about what a potential new boarder might be looking for.
I also think more importantly is for you as the barn owner or manager to very honest and direct about how you do things at your barn. Here is list of some key points that I feel will help determine if a client is a good fit for both you and them.
- Weather and the determining factor for when the horses stay inside for the day. Flexibility is so important when dealing with the weather and a judgement call. Is a possible new client willing to be flexible and trust your decision?
- Explain whether your herds are mixed or separated by gender and what your max is for herd sizes.
- If you offer private turnout, explain exactly how you do it and where the horse will be placed. Location is important for some people.
- How you feed in the morning and afternoon is huge. Do you feed large bales for all day grazing or separate piles for each horse. Explain how much you feed how you determine if a horse needs more or not.
- Do you hand walk out the horses and do you leave halters on? They might not think to ask so it is better for you to tell them how you do your daily turnout.
- Do you heat the water in the wintertime?
- Explain how you handle trainers at your barn and riding while a trainer is giving a lesson. Share what the busy times of the day are for riding.
- Be very clear on what type of riding disciplines you have at your barn. If your barn is mainly a pleasure barn than it might not be a good fit for the person that does speed events.
- Be very honest about your barn rules and hours. This seems to be a hot spot for many people.
- Explain how you clean stalls and be very clear about how you bed your stalls. If you bed light then tell them you bed light and show them what your stalls look like. Give them a visual so there is no misunderstanding. The last thing you want is a boarder that is upset because they thought you bedded the stalls heavier than you do. It happens more than you would think!
- Explain what extra services you offer and if you charge. Don't offer the world unless you really can do it. I made that mistake in the beginning and I learned a good lesson about being real and honest. Also be very clear about the fees for services provided.
- Show them your boarding contract and be direct on how board is paid and the late fees that are involved.
- Be clear about shots and deworming and how you do it at your barn and what is mandatory for your facility.
- Find out the age of the horse and if he has special needs. If he does, then you need to be honest to yourself and them about if you can easily care for this type of horse.
Everyone of the items listed above have caused issues in my barn and stress for me during our first couple of years in business mainly because I was not clear on how we did things and the client had different expectations. I really believe that is you are upfront about how you do things, it will save you so much time and stress in the long run and you will find boarders that are very content with how you run your barn.
The longer you run your business the better you will be at reading people that come for a tour of your place. It is definitely a process and you will be constantly learning what questions to ask. There is never going to be a one hundred percent guarantee that every client will be a perfect fit but I do believe that the chances of a less than perfect fit between a client and your facility become so much lower when everything is made very clear in the beginning.
Remember that you will meet some very nice people that you would love to have at your barn but for many reasons your barn will not be a good fit for them. Look at the big picture and do what is best for all involved and even if a person chooses a different barn, you will still have a good relationship with them. When a person is not a good fit, don't be discourage because the right people will find you and they will be just as nice and they will help create a wonderful atmosphere. For every person that has left our barn, I have had great people fill their spots. It will happen for you also.
If you are new to my blog then welcome! If you are just starting out in your horse business or have been in it for a while I would love for you to check out my new book, "The Total Horse Barn Management Makeover." It will change how you look at yourself as the barn owner or manager and give you positive solutions to the many issues we all go through running a horse business. It is truly the most honest book about horse barn management you will find. It will encourage you and give you tools to make the changes you have wanted to make but were not sure where to start.
I wish you many blessings in your horse business,